Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in
American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. English is the most widely spoken language in the United States and in most circumstances ...
) is a written or spoken conversation
al exchange between two or more people, and a
Literature is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expanded to include ...
form that depicts such an exchange. As a philosophical
Didacticism is a philosophy that emphasizes instructional and informative qualities in literature, art, and design. In art, design, architecture, and landscape, didacticism is an emerging conceptual approach that is driven by the urgent need to ...
device, it is chiefly associated in the West with the Socratic dialogue
as developed by
Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the first institutio ...
, but antecedents are also found in other traditions including
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognised languages.
The earliest works of Indian literature were o ...
The term dialogue stems from the Greek διάλογος (''dialogos'', conversation); its roots are διά (''dia'': through) and λόγος (''logos'': speech, reason). The first extant author who uses the term is Plato, in whose works it is closely associated with the art of dialectic. Latin took over the word as ''dialogus''.
Antiquity and the Middle Ages
Dialogue as a genre in the
The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233: ) is a geopolitical region commonly encompassing Arabia (including the Arabian Peninsula and Bahrain), Asia Minor (Asian part of Turkey except Hatay Province), East Thrace (Europe ...
Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notable geographical regions, which is either considered a continent in its own right or a subcontinent of Eurasia, which shares the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with Africa. Asia covers an a ...
dates back to ancient works, such as Sumerian disputations
preserved in copies from the late third millennium BC, Rigvedic dialogue hymns
and the ''
The ''Mahābhārata'' ( ; sa, महाभारतम्, ', ) is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India in Hinduism, the other being the ''Rāmāyaṇa''. It narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kuru ...
In the East, in 13th century Japan, dialogue was used in important philosophical works. In the 1200s, Nichiren Daishonin wrote some of his important writings in dialogue form, describing a meeting between two characters in order to present his argument and theory, such as in "Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man" (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin 1: pp.99-140, dated around 1256), and "On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land" (Ibid., pp.6-30; dated 1260), while in other writings he used a question and answer format, without the narrative scenario, such as in "Questions and Answers about Embracing the Lotus Sutra" (Ibid., pp.55-67, possibly from 1263). The sage or person answering the questions was understood as the author.
In the West,
Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the first institutio ...
(c. 437 BC – c. 347 BC) has commonly been credited with the systematic use of dialogue as an independent literary form. Ancient sources indicate, however, that the Platonic dialogue had its foundations in the ''mime'', which the Sicilian
had cultivated half a century earlier. These works, admired and imitated by Plato, have not survived and we have only the vaguest idea of how they may have been performed. The ''Mimes'' of Herodas
, which were found in a papyrus in 1891, give some idea of their character.
Plato further simplified the form and reduced it to pure argumentative
conversation, while leaving intact the amusing element of character
By about 400 BC he had perfected the Socratic dialogue
. All his extant writings, except the '' Apology
An epistle (; el, ἐπιστολή, ''epistolē,'' "letter") is a writing directed or sent to a person or group of people, usually an elegant and formal didactic letter. The epistle genre of letter-writing was common in ancient Egypt as part ...
, use this form.
Following Plato, the dialogue became a major literary genre in antiquity, and several important works both in Latin and in Greek were written. Soon after Plato,
Xenophon of Athens (; grc, Ξενοφῶν ; – probably 355 or 354 BC) was a Greek military leader, philosopher, and historian, born in Athens. At the age of 30, Xenophon was elected commander of one of the biggest Greek mercenary armies o ...
wrote his own '' Symposium
''; also, Aristotle is said to have written several philosophical dialogues in Plato's style (of which only fragments survive). In the 2nd century CE, Christian apologist
Justin Martyr ( el, Ἰουστῖνος ὁ μάρτυς, Ioustinos ho martys; c. AD 100 – c. AD 165), also known as Justin the Philosopher, was an early Christian apologist and philosopher.
Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and ...
wrote the '' Dialogue with Trypho
'', which was a discourse between Justin representing Christianity and Trypho representing Judaism. Another Christian apologetic dialogue from the time was the '' Octavius
'', between the Christian Octavius and pagan Caecilius.
Modern period to the present
Two French writers of eminence borrowed the title of Lucian's most famous collection; both Fontenelle
(1683) and Fénelon
(1712) prepared ''Dialogues des morts'' ("Dialogues of the Dead"). Contemporaneously, in 1688, the French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche
published his ''Dialogues on
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of reality, the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity, and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of consci ...
and Religion'', thus contributing to the genre's revival in philosophic circles. In English non-dramatic literature the dialogue did not see extensive use until Berkeley
employed it, in 1713, for his treatise, '' Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous
His contemporary, the Scottish philosopher
David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999br>David Hume" ''Encyclopædia Britannica''. Retrieved 18 May 2020. was a Scottish Enlightenment philo ...
wrote ''Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.'' A prominent 19th-century example of literary dialogue was Landor
's '' Imaginary Conversations
In Germany, Wieland
adopted this form for several important satirical works published between 1780 and 1799. In Spanish literature, the ''Dialogues'' of Valdés
(1528) and those on ''Painting'' (1633) by Vincenzo Carducci
are celebrated. Italian writers of collections of dialogues, following Plato's model, include
Torquato Tasso ( , also , ; 11 March 154425 April 1595) was an Italian poet of the 16th century, known for his 1591 poem ''Gerusalemme liberata'' (Jerusalem Delivered), in which he depicts a highly imaginative version of the combats between ...
Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Commonly referred to as Galileo, his name was pronounced (, ). He was ...
Count Giacomo Taldegardo Francesco di Sales Saverio Pietro Leopardi (, ; 29 June 1798 – 14 June 1837) was an Italian philosopher, poet, essayist, and philologist. He is considered the greatest Italian poet of the nineteenth century and one of ...
(1825), and a host of others.
In the 19th century, the French returned to the original application of dialogue. The inventions of " Gyp
", of Henri Lavedan
, and of others, which tell a mundane
An anecdote is "a story with a point", such as to communicate an abstract idea about a person, place, or thing through the concrete details of a short narrative or to characterize by delineating a specific quirk or trait. Occasionally humorous, ...
wittily and maliciously in conversation, would probably present a close analogy to the lost mimes of the early Sicilian poets. English writers including Anstey Guthrie
also adopted the form, but these dialogues seem to have found less of a popular following among the English than their counterparts written by French authors.
The Platonic dialogue
, as a distinct genre which features Socrates as a speaker and one or more interlocutors discussing some philosophical question, experienced something of a rebirth in the 20th century. Authors who have recently employed it include George Santayana
, in his eminent ''Dialogues in Limbo'' (1926, 2nd ed. 1948; this work also includes such historical figures as
Alcibiades ( ; grc-gre, Ἀλκιβιάδης; 450 – 404 BC) was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last of the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from prominence after the Peloponnesian War. He played a major role in t ...
Aristippus of Cyrene (; grc, Ἀρίστιππος ὁ Κυρηναῖος; c. 435 – c. 356 BCE) was a hedonistic Greek philosopher and the founder of the Cyrenaic school of philosophy. He was a pupil of Socrates, but adopted a very differ ...
Ibn Sina ( fa, ابن سینا; 980 – June 1037 CE), commonly known in the West as Avicenna (), was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, philosophers, and writers of the Islamic ...
Democritus (; el, Δημόκριτος, ''Dēmókritos'', meaning "chosen of the people"; – ) was an Ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher from Abdera, primarily remembered today for his formulation of an atomic theory of the universe. N ...
, and Dionysius the Younger
as speakers). Also Edith Stein
Dame Jean Iris Murdoch ( ; 15 July 1919 – 8 February 1999) was an Irish and British novelist and philosopher. Murdoch is best known for her novels about good and evil, sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious. Her ...
used the dialogue form. Stein imagined a dialogue between
, thesis1_title = Beiträge zur Variationsrechnung (Contributions to the Calculus of Variations)
, thesis1_url = https://fedora.phaidra.univie.ac.at/fedora/get/o:58535/bdef:Book/view
, thesis1_year = 1883
, thesis2_title ...
Thomas Aquinas, OP (; it, Tommaso d'Aquino, lit=Thomas of Aquino; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar and priest who was an influential philosopher, theologian and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism; he is known wit ...
(metaphysical realist). Murdoch included not only Socrates and Alcibiades as interlocutors in her work ''Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues'' (1986), but featured a young Plato himself as well. More recently
Timothy Williamson (born 1955) is a British philosopher whose main research interests are in philosophical logic, philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics. He is the Wykeham Professor of Logic at the University of Oxford, and fe ...
wrote ''Tetralogue'', a philosophical exchange on a train between four people with radically different epistemological
In the 20th century, philosophical treatments of dialogue emerged from thinkers including Mikhail Bakhtin
, Paulo Freire
, Martin Buber
, and David Bohm
. Although diverging in many details, these thinkers have proposed a holistic concept of dialogue. Educators such as Freire and Ramón Flecha
have also developed a body of theory and techniques for using egalitarian dialogue
as a pedagogical tool.
assigns dialogue a pivotal position in his
Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the ...
. His most influential work is titled '' I and Thou
''. Buber cherishes and promotes dialogue not as some purposive attempt to reach conclusions or express mere points of view, but as the very prerequisite of authentic relationship between man and man, and between man and God
. Buber's thought centers on "true dialogue", which is characterized by openness, honesty, and mutual commitment.
Second Vatican Council
The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, commonly known as the , or , was the 21st ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church. The council met in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome for four periods (or sessions), each lasting between 8 and ...
placed a major emphasis on dialogue with the World. Most of the Council's documents involve some kind of dialogue : dialogue with other religions ('' Nostra aetate
''), dialogue with other Christians ( Unitatis Redintegratio
), dialogue with modern society ('' Gaudium et spes
'') and dialogue with political authorities ( Dignitatis Humanae
). However, in the English translations of these texts, "dialogue" was used to translate two Latin words with distinct meanings, ''colloquium'' ("discussion") and ''dialogus'' ("dialogue"). The choice of terminology appears to have been strongly influenced by Buber's thought.
A physicist is a scientist who specializes in the field of physics, which encompasses the interactions of matter and energy at all length and time scales in the physical universe.
Physicists generally are interested in the root or ultimate caus ... David Bohm
originated a related form of dialogue where a group of people talk together in order to explore their assumptions of thinking, meaning, communication, and social effects. This group consists of ten to thirty people who meet for a few hours regularly or a few continuous days. In a Bohm dialogue
, dialoguers agree to leave behind
Debate is a process that involves formal discourse on a particular topic, often including a moderator and audience. In a debate, arguments are put forward for often opposing viewpoints. Debates have historically occurred in public meetings, a ...
tactics that attempt to convince and, instead, talk from their own experience on subjects that are improvised on the spot.
In his influential works, Russian
philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin
provided an extralinguistic methodology for analysing the nature and meaning of dialogue:
''Dialogic relations'' have a specific nature: they can be reduced neither to the purely
Logic is the study of correct reasoning. It includes both formal and informal logic. Formal logic is the science of deductively valid inferences or of logical truths. It is a formal science investigating how conclusions follow from premises ... (even if dialectical) nor to the purely linguistic ( compositional- syntactic
In linguistics, syntax () is the study of how words and morphemes combine to form larger units such as phrases and sentences. Central concerns of syntax include word order, grammatical relations, hierarchical sentence structure (constituency), ...) They are possible only between complete utterances of various speaking subjects... Where there is no word and no language
Language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means by which humans communicate, and may be conveyed through a variety of ..., there can be no dialogic relations; they cannot exist among objects or logical quantities (concepts, judgments, and so forth). Dialogic relations presuppose a language, but they do not reside within the system of language. They are impossible among elements of a language.
Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At and with over 217 million people, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country by area a ...
ian educationalist Paulo Freire
, known for developing popular education, advanced dialogue as a type of pedagogy. Freire held that dialogued communication allowed students and teachers to learn from one another in an environment characterized by respect and equality. A great advocate for oppressed peoples, Freire was concerned with praxis—action that is informed and linked to people's values. Dialogued pedagogy was not only about deepening understanding; it was also about making positive changes in the world: to make it better.
Dialogue is used as a practice in a variety of settings, from
Education is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitting knowledge or fostering skills and character traits. These aims may include the development of understanding, rationality, kindness, and honesty. V ...
Business is the practice of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (such as goods and services). It is also "any activity or enterprise entered into for profit."
Having a business name does not separ ...
. Influential theorists of dialogal education include Paulo Freire
and Ramon Flecha
In the United States, an early form of dialogic learning emerged in the Great Books
movement of the early to mid-20th century, which emphasized egalitarian dialogues in small classes as a way of understanding the foundational texts of the
The Western canon is the body of high culture literature, music, philosophy, and works of art that are highly valued in the West; works that have achieved the status of classics. However, not all these works originate in the Western world, an ...
. Institutions that continue to follow a version of this model include the Great Books Foundation
Shimer Great Books School (pronounced ) is a Great Books college that is part of North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. Prior to 2017, Shimer was an independent, accredited college on the south side of Chicago, with a history of being ...
in Chicago, and St. John's College
in Annapolis and Santa Fe.
Egalitarian dialogue is a concept in dialogic learning
. It may be defined as a dialogue in which contributions are considered according to the validity of their reasoning, instead of according to the status or position of power of those who make them.
Structured dialogue represents a class of dialogue practices developed as a means of orienting the dialogic discourse toward problem understanding and consensual
action. Whereas most traditional dialogue practices are unstructured or semi-structured, such conversational modes have been observed as insufficient for the coordination of multiple perspectives in a problem area. A disciplined form of dialogue, where participants agree to follow a dialogue framework or a facilitator
, enables groups to address complex shared problems.
(who created ''structured dialogue design'') and John N. Warfield
(who created ''science of generic design'') were two of the leading developers of this school of dialogue. The rationale for engaging structured dialogue follows the observation that a rigorous bottom-up democratic form of dialogue must be structured to ensure that a sufficient variety of stakeholders represents the problem system of concern, and that their voices and contributions are equally balanced in the dialogic process.
Structured dialogue is employed for complex problems including peacemaking
(e.g., Civil Society Dialogue project in Cyprus
) and indigenous community development., as well as government and social policy formulation.
In one deployment, structured dialogue is (according to a European Union definition) "a means of mutual communication between governments and administrations including EU institutions
and young people. The aim is to get young people's contribution towards the formulation of policies relevant to young peoples lives." The application of structured dialogue requires one to differentiate the meanings of discussion and deliberation.
Groups such as Worldwide Marriage Encounter and Retrouvaille use dialogue as a communication tool for married couples. Both groups teach a dialogue method that helps couples learn more about each other in non-threatening postures, which helps to foster growth in the married relationship.
The German philosopher and classicist Karl-Martin Dietz
emphasizes the original meaning of dialogue (from Greek ''dia-logos'', i.e. 'two words'), which goes back to Heraclitus: "The logos ..
answers to the question of the world as a whole and how everything in it is connected. Logos is the one principle at work, that gives order to the manifold in the world." For Dietz, dialogue means "a kind of thinking, acting and speaking, which the logos "passes through"" Therefore, talking to each other is merely one part of "dialogue". Acting dialogically means directing someone's attention to another one and to reality at the same time.
Against this background and together with Thomas Kracht, Karl-Martin Dietz developed what he termed " dialogical leadership
" as a form of organizational management.
[Karl-Martin Dietz, Thomas Kracht: Dialogische Führung. Grundlagen - Praxis Fallbeispiel: dm-drogerie markt. 3. Auflage. Frankfurt am Main: Campus 2011.]
In several German enterprises and organisations it replaced the traditional human resource management, e.g. in the German
A pharmacy (also called "drugstore" in American English or "community pharmacy" or "chemist" in Commonwealth English, or rarely, apothecary) is a retail shop which provides pharmaceutical drugs, among other products. At the pharmacy, a pharmaci ...
dm-drogerie markt (usually abbreviated as dm) is a chain of retail stores headquartered in Karlsruhe, Germany
Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central Europe. It is the second most populous cou ...
Separately, and earlier to Thomas Kracht and Karl-Martin Dietz, Rens van Loon published multiple works on the concept of dialogical leadership, starting with a chapter in the 2003 book ''The Organization as Story''.
Moral dialogues are social processes which allow societies or communities to form new shared moral understandings. Moral dialogues have the capacity to modify the moral positions of a sufficient number of people to generate widespread approval for actions and policies that previously had little support or were considered morally inappropriate by many. Communitarian philosopher Amitai Etzioni has developed an analytical framework which—modeling historical examples—outlines the reoccurring components of moral dialogues. Elements of moral dialogues include: establishing a moral baseline; sociological dialogue starters which initiate the process of developing new shared moral understandings; the linking of multiple groups' discussions in the form of "megalogues"; distinguishing the distinct attributes of the moral dialogue (apart from rational deliberations or culture wars); dramatization to call widespread attention to the issue at hand; and, closure through the establishment of a new shared moral understanding.
Moral dialogues allow people of a given community to determine what is morally acceptable to a majority of people within the community.
Argumentation theory, or argumentation, is the interdisciplinary study of how conclusions can be supported or undermined by premises through logical reasoning. With historical origins in logic, dialectic, and rhetoric, argumentation theory, inclu ...
* Collaborative leadership
* Dialogical self
* Dialogue Among Civilizations
Dialogue (Bakhtin) The twentieth century Russian philosopher and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin wrote extensively on the concept of ''dialogue''. Although Bakhtin's work took many different directions over the course of his life, dialogue always remained the "maste ...
* Dialogue mapping
* Intercultural dialogue
Interfaith dialogue refers to cooperative, constructive, and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions (i.e. "faiths") and/or spiritual or humanistic beliefs, at both the individual and institutional levels. It i ...
* Intergroup dialogue
* Rogerian argument
Speech is a human vocal communication using language. Each language uses phonetic combinations of vowel and consonant sounds that form the sound of its words (that is, all English words sound different from all French words, even if they are th ...
*Bakhtin, M. M. (1986) ''Speech Genres and Other Late Essays''. Trans. by Vern W. McGee. Austin, Tx: University of Texas Press.
* Hösle, Vittorio (2013): ''The Philosophical Dialogue: a Poetics and a Hermeneutics''. Trans. by Steven Rendall. Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press.
*Maranhão, Tullio (1990) The Interpretation of Dialogue
' University of Chicago Press
* E. Di Nuoscio, "Epistemologia del dialogo. Una difesa filosofica del confronto pacifico tra culture", Carocci, Roma, 2011
* Suitner, Riccarda (2022) ''The Dialogues of the Dead of the Early German Enlightenment''. Trans. by Gwendolin Goldbloom. Leiden-Boston: Brill